State park pursues North Routt land

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State park officials continue to work on purchasing land on which they tested a temporary snowmobile and skiing trail to link Steamboat Lake State Park and the Routt National Forest last winter.

The efforts come as the state park waits to learn whether the U.S. Forest Service will approve the linking winter trail, said Ken Brink, Steamboat Lake State Park manager.

Although the U.S. Forest Service may deny the trail, the state park wants to buy the land for other reasons, Brink said.

The land is valuable because it is a "viewshed" corridor. It provides a "beautiful piece of open space," where cranes nest and wetland creeks run off from Hahn's Peak, Brink said. This open space is what the public sees from County Road 129 while looking toward Hahn's Peak.

"That's a very positive thing, obviously, if we can keep that in a natural state," Brink said.

The land also is valuable because it is one of the last options the state park has to keep from becoming "landlocked" from the National Forest by private landowners -- this 168-acre parcel would join the state park's eastern boundary with the Routt National Forest.

That common boundary gives the state park and national forest options for the future, Brink said.

"Without the land, there are no options," Brink said. "It is probably the last good chance we have of doing that."

The state park does not have a contract on the property yet. The State Land Board will consider the property at a meeting today, and if the board gives approval, work could follow to acquire the property with funds from replacement lands.

A linking trail between the state park and national forest would help mitigate parking and trespassing problems associated with snow-mobiling in North Routt and keep pressure off popular parking and riding areas.

The linking trail would be about 1.5 miles, starting at the marina parking lot and traveling around the lake on a groomed trail. It crosses Routt County Road 129 near the state park visitors' center, goes across Bureau of Land Management land, heads north across the 168-acre parcel the state park could buy, and turns right into the National Forest on Forest Service Road 410.

The U.S. Forest Service has not approved the linking trail on its land for various reasons, including that more compact snow would harm lynx by making them less competitive for food sources.

Steamboat Lake State Park officials also recently bought a thin piece of land along Hahn's Peak Village to provide access to the National Forest but decided to use it only in the summer for nonmotorized uses after complaints from residents in the village about potential snowmobile traffic.

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